Oh India, not for the faint of heart or the picky eaters. Dusty and hot, it’s a true assault to the senses (mostly, your sense of smell).
I have enjoyed traveling through India thoroughly, but it was also the most challenging destinations I’ve been to. To help you get the best out of your visit to India, I thought it would be helpful to share my 5 favourite travel experiences in India.
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is part of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a traditional steam train that takes you through the mountain landscapes, tea plantations, tunnels and across viaducts. All at the very slow pace of around 10 km/hour, which is why the 46 km ride between Ooty and Conoor takes about 4,5 hours.
It’s advisable to bring a sweater and some snacks. For me the Nilgiri Mountain Railway was the ultimate slow travel experience. Keep looking out of the window, or you might just miss the waterfall around the corner.
Temple Town Hampi
Another World Heritage Site that I loved was Hampi. Hampi was a stronghold from the 14th to the 16th century, when it was a part of the Vijayanagara Empire. Easily defensible due to a river on one side and hilly terrain with massive boulders on the others, Hampi flourished.
We rented a tuk tuk and driver for two whole days to drive around and see the prettiest of the remaining temples and sites around the area. A highlight of our experience was when our tuk tuk driver, named Anaconda, tried to teach me how to drive.
Completely unrelated to my driving skills, the darned thing broke down within 5 minutes. Leaving us stranded while Anaconda asked around for a new brake cable thingy (yes, that’s the technical term for it).
Exploring the ancient buildings around Hampi and the very relaxing backpacker atmosphere in town was a nice change of pace. Our few days in Hampi were definitely one of my favourite travel experiences in India.
Seeing the Taj Mahal
I’m sure, some of you were thinking; “Where is the Taj?”
Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I had to include it. Seeing it is a must, but the experience didn’t compare to the images everyone has seen of the Taj Mahal so many times.
We got up really early to make sure we would be the first ones through the gates and see the sunrise at the Taj. Sadly, the smog and clouds had other plans for us.
It was surreal to finally see such a famous site in person. At the same time it was really busy. My expectations might have been too high, which meant that it didn’t impress me as much as it could have.
On the other hand, I learned something new that thoroughly excited me. The emperor that built the Taj Mahal, planned to build an exact mirror image of the Taj Mahal on the other side of the river as his own tomb. Only his version would be completely executed in black.
Although this was never built, it still made my imagination run wild. At the end of the day, the Taj Mahal was still a tremendously rewarding sight, just don’t expect to be the only one there to admire it.
Relaxing on the Beaches in Goa
Goa is the first one on the list that is not a World Heritage Site. However, arriving in Goa after the hot, traditional and dusty north was a breath of fresh air. A few days of reading on the beach and drinking cocktails at night is good for the soul. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself.
Goa is one of the less strict places in India. Which might explain why I know of several travel bloggers and digital nomads that made Goa their home. If you’re there, please order a sizzler for dinner somewhere, they’re amazing.
Yes, I did it. My fifth on the list of favourite travel experiences in India, is the food. Having a close friend from India in high school, I knew that Indian cuisine is amazing. However, on multiple occasions, my mind was blown.
My two favourite meals were the butter chicken (with garlic naan on the side, obviously) and the thali. A thali exists of multiple different dishes, somewhere in between 5 and 8 small bowls filled with different curries, soups, stews, etcetera are served. It’s not only a delicious, but also a safe choice because there will probably always be something in there that you enjoy.
A small warning about the food though. As you might know, I hate coriander. Sadly, they put that on almost everything, unless you specifically add that you don’t want any coriander. All of my orders ended with the same line, no coriander please.
These were my favourite travel experiences in India. What were yours? Please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.